International desk, May 02: Cyclone Fani is expected to make a landfall south of Puri in Odisha any time after tomorrow afternoon.According to the latest forecast by the Indian Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JWTC), Fani, is the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that devastated large parts of the state.
Evacuations have started on a war footing in the coastal districts of Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Gajapati, Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack and Jajpur.
The Indian Meteorological Department has warned of very heavy rainfall, “phenomenal sea conditions” and winds up to 175 km/hr when the cyclone makes landfall.
The defence forces are on high alert ahead of cyclone Fani. The Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service have been deployed in vulnerable areas to help the administration in evacuations.
All schools and colleges will be closed for the next three days in Odisha. Over 8 lakh people in the coastal districts are being evacuated, said officials in the state government.
The NDRF has deployed 28 teams in Odisha, 12 in Andhra Pradesh and six teams in West Bengal for relief and rescue work. Over 30 additional teams are on standby with boats, tree cutters, telecom equipment said officials.
The storm is currently over the Bay of Bengal about 500 km southwest of Puri and moving towards the coast at a speed of 6 km/hr, the IMD said in its weather bulletin.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, reviewed the cyclone preparedness, in a high level meeting with senior officials of the state. The Chief Minister directed the administration to evacuate people from low-lying areas by today evening, keeping mind the forecast of massive tides that could surge up to 1.5 metres during the landfall.
Leave of all doctors and health officials have been cancelled till May 15, said Odisha chief secretary AP Padhi. The state police Chief RP Sharma said that leave of all police personnel have also been cancelled and those on leave have been asked to immediately report for duty.
Senior officers in the state administration have been asked to personally oversee relief, rescue operations in the coastal districts.Around 880 cyclone shelters have been set up in these districts.
Cyclone Fani is also likely to impact Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In West Bengal, it will affect East and West Medinipur, South and North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram districts and state Kolkata and in Andhra Pradesh, three districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagram and Visakhapatnam are likely to be affected.
The Election Commission yesterday relaxed the Model Code of Conduct in 11 districts to facilitate relief and rescue operations.
The South Eastern Railway has cancelled 43 trains scheduled to run between Howrah and Puri, and other destinations in south India over the next two days.